Clear Lake/Rowdy Lake

Round Trip Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 9186 - 9291 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Rowdy Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, fishing, wikiups

The Clear Lake trail is located near Silver Jack Reservoir in the Mountain Division of the Uncompahgre National Forest east of Montrose, Colorado. The trail begins at Rowdy Lake off of Forest Road 838. Both Rowdy Lake and Clear Lake are popular locations to fish for brook trout. The remains of several wikiups near Clear Lake remind hikers that this was once the land of the Ute Indians. They would have come up here from the Montrose area during the same summer months that people visit today to hunt, fish and gather the bounty of the forest for their sustenance.

The best route is to drive east from Montrose on U.S. Highway 50 for about 20 miles and turn right on the Big Cimarron Road. An alternate route, that is much rougher, yet a beautiful drive, is to come up from the Ridgeway direction over Owl Creek Pass. It is a good route to take going home when the road is dry.

Follow the Big Cimarron Road for about 15 miles to the Uncompahgre National Forest boundary where it becomes Forest Road 858. The Big Cimarron campground is on the right just after crossing the river bridge. After another mile you will pass the Beaver Lake campground and 1 mile past that you will come to the turnoff in this picture to the Silver Jack campground.

Continue straight on FR 858 and watch for a road marked 838 on the left where there is a sign for Rowdy Lake.

Follow the Rowdy Lake road for about 1 mile to the trailhead. If you aren't driving a high clearance vehicle you will probably want to drive only as far as you feel comfortable and walk the rest of the way in.

Begin by hiking around the west side of Rowdy Lake.

At the northeast end of the lake there is a place to hike through the fence.

From Rowdy Lake it is about a 1 mile hike, or a little less, to Clear Lake. The easy to follow trail passes through stands of aspen trees and meadows of grass and wildflowers.

One little stream requires crossing. If you look to your right there is a narrow spot that you can jump across.

Clear Lake sits at the end of a meadow where the terrain quickly drops off to the north. Its placid waters hang like a mirror reflecting back its surroundings.

The remains of several wikiups can be seen nearby. These would have been built by local Ute Indians and covered with hides as temporary shelters while hunting in the area.

The area around Silver Jack Reservoir has some of the most beautiful mountain scenery that you will find anywhere. There are high mesas, rugged ridges, and sky piercing peaks that tower over 13,000 and 14,000 feet. Uncompahgre Peak, with an elevation of 14,309 feet, is the areas monarch and can be seen from many places around Silver Jack. Other well known peaks are Wetterhorn, Matterhorn and Precipice Peak.

Around here snow can linger well into June. If you are coming up early in the season you may want to check with the Forest Service to see if the road and campgrounds are open. Besides the 3 main campgrounds there are many other  primitive places you can camp along the side roads and streams as long as they aren't posted otherwise. While the area is open for hunting shooting is prohibited around lakes, campgrounds and in the vicinity of other people. Clear Lake and Rowdy Lake are among several popular hiking and fishing destinations in the area. If you would like to see them for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.